Lives of the fellows

Peter John William Mills

b.15 June 1913 d.18 August 1984
MRCS LRCP(1936) DA Eng(1940) MRCP(1943) FRCP(1967)

Peter Mills was the son of William Henry Mills, who was a surveyor and a partner in the firm of George Trollope & Sons, London. His mother, Alice Jane Clarke, was the daughter of a civil servant in the India Office. Peter was born in London and educated at Dulwich College Preparatory School, and subsequently at Emmanuel School and by a private tutor. His medical training was undertaken at St Bartholomew’s Hospital whence he qualified in 1936. After qualifying he worked at Bart’s, the Royal Northern Hospital, Redhill County Hospital, and then the Borough General Hospital (now Southampton General Hospital) from 1938 onwards. It was there that he met staff nurse Bronwen Margaret Harris, whom he married in 1945.

During the war Peter Mills was a flight lieutenant in the RAFVR, later becoming chief assistant to R V Christie (q.v.) at Bart’s, and then resident assistant physician at the Hammersmith Hospital. In 1945 he was appointed consultant physician to the Lister Hospital at Hitchin, and became visiting consultant physician at St Alban’s and honorary physician at the Mildmay Mission Hospital in London in 1947. In 1964 he gave up his post at St Albans to become consultant physician to the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, Welwyn Garden City. For some years he served on the merit award committee.

Peter Mill’s particular interests in medicine were thyroid and heart disorders, which were well represented in his publications. ‘Uncle Peter’ was always enthusiastic about medical education and took a lot of time and trouble teaching generations of medical students and house physicians. His teaching interest and clinical acumen were reflected in his book The Significance of physical signs in medicine, London, Lewis, 1971. In 1967 he was appointed associate teacher in medicine at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in recognition of his teaching of students at the Lister Hospital. He was also interested in the teaching of nurses and helped in the formation of the Lister Hospital School of Nursing, where he continued to teach until shortly before he died. For several years he was medical superintendent at the Lister Hospital in Hitchin and was deeply involved in the planning of the new Lister Hospital at Stevenage, where he was senior physician from the time of its opening in 1972 until his retirement in 1979.

On his ward rounds nothing was too much trouble. He took detailed histories, followed by extremely careful examinations, and in the days before modern investigations were available he had an uncanny accuracy in diagnosis. He was always a raconteur and his various anecdotes frequently enlivened more serious matters. He showed unfailing courtesy to staff and patients, and was always considerate to all around him.

His main outside interests were golf and sailing, both of which he enjoyed until his death, but his primary interest was medicine and in retirement he did frequent hospital locums and also worked in general practice for many months. He would have hated to give up medicine completely. By a happy accident, in the last week of his life he had the pleasure of doing a consultant locum, and he was actually away on a weekend of sailing at the time of his death.

SM Watkins

[Brit.med.J., 1984,289,1011-12,1235]

(Volume VIII, page 342)

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